If you are in the music business or play golf you are probably familiar with the SKB brand of instrument cases and ruggedized golf bags. For 30-plus years Dave Sanderson and Steve Kottman have been in the business of developing ideas into marketable products. And for nine years, Omnica has been there to help.
SKB is a privately held and located in Orange, California. Their extensive manufacturing facilities are located here and in Mexicali, Mexico. In addition to instrument and golf cases, SKB produces ribbed containers for the military and other industries. You may have seen an SKB case featured in the movie “Cliff Hanger”. Recently, OMNIview interviewed Sanderson, who recounted how he and Steve got started.
The two have known each other since college, and Dave refers to Steve as his best buddy. In 1973 Dave was working at Knott’s Berry Farm when he was asked to repair a case for one of the park musicians. He took it to Steve’s garage and they fixed it with pop rivets. The repair went so well that the two friends began building plywood cases for friends and local musicians. Eventually they began selling them at music stores.
Some time later, their largest music store customer, Doug Brown, suggested they build a saxophone case using plastic instead of plywood. Dave used his surfboard shaping experience to build the plaster mold. The team cobbled a thermoform “machine” together from junk parts, including heating elements from an old dish washer. The intake manifold from Dave’s 240-Z was the vacuum source, so his car had to be running whenever they were thermoforming. Doug was so impressed with the garage-built plastic sax case that he offered his financial support in trade for consideration as a partner. Brown became the “B” in the newly formed SKB Corp. The partnership didn’t last long because that summer of 1978, after a fire in Doug’s warehouse, the two original partners purchased Brown’s interest. As it stands today, SKB is really “S” and “K”.
Steve and Dave persevered and began making real money when they developed color-coded microphone windscreens. With income from the foam windscreens they purchased the parts to build a real thermoforming machine.
With the new machine in place, SKB was able to produce and market four types of musical instrument cases, so they approached Fender Musical Instruments for an order. Even though the guitar maker initially laughed at their idea, they offered SKB a list of what was wrong with their cases. The partners kept returning with the suggested improvements until Fender ran out of reasons not to purchasing the cases. Fender eventually became a customer. According to Sanderson, you don’t have to be smart, you just need to stick to it. SKB now has 10 huge rotary thermo-formers that run around the clock.
In addition to thermoforming, many products in the SKB line are rotationally molded. “The way we got into roto-molding was with Omnica,” said Dave. "Years ago we had a ski case we built with complicated aluminum tubes. The case had a lot of problems, it was hard to finish, it was expensive, and it dented”. During a visit to Omnica, Earl (our President) suggested rotational molding as an answer to their problems. Earl’s advice solved the drawbacks inherent in the aluminum cases, and the success of the process prompted its use with other products. Rotational molding became such a large part of SKB’s business that they purchased their own machines.
OMNIview asked why SKB doesn’t have their own engineers on staff. “When you are developing a product,” Dave explained, “there are different processes that have to happen, and you need a team. We can use Omnica whether it’s something electronic or mechanical or even art department type work. You have a whole collection of people with various talents, and when you design a product like this (SKB’s audio speaker), you can call on any one of a half dozen people for help”.
At left is the sales sheet information for the "Spike" venue speaker. It's rotationally-molded case features a special sound deadening material sandwiched between two layers of polyethylene. It's very rugged and scratch-resistant. You can learn more about SKB at www.skbcases.com